In last week's column, we listed persons whose portraits I believe I should hang in my personal "gallery of the greats", persons whom I considered to have played a major role in the years following our Independence. We listed them but had little time and/or space to comment on their achievement. Let us return to our labour of Hercules. Before doing so, however, we need to remind readers that we were using the term "great" in a non-ideological manner to define persons whose footprints on the society were large, regardless of whether they were a force largely for "good" or for "evil", terms which are, in any case, subjective and specific to the time and place in which they crossed the borders of "history".
Among those who were listed was Lloyd Best, whose impact on society though was huge.
Lloyd was a "guru" in the best sense of the word. Many complained that he was not able to write with simplicity and clarity: many found him hard to understand, but those who persisted and stayed the course invariably found that what he had to say at the end of the day was worthwhile. He was the quintessential political doctor who had an idiosyncratic poultice for every social ailment.
He once floored me when he observed that I was the only black intellectual who had made it without having won an island schol.
I admired him but never joined his "school", which remains on to this day.
Peter Minshall also makes my cut; he was the "saga boy" of mas, not only because for the beauty and imaginativeness of his Carnival portrayals (some of which I carried on my neck through the streets of Port of Spain).
I still recall being among the butterflies depicted in Papillon, for me, one of Minshall's best portrayals, perhaps because my partner could not find me amongst the shimmering wings.
Like Lloyd, Minshall always had something to say, and the arrogance to say it, in spite of what others might have thought.
And what can one say of Naipaul?
He, too, was unconventional and provoked a great deal of hate and rage among persons whom his brother Shiva said belonged to the "turd" world.
He was fabulously gifted as a creative writer, and his travel books were among the best I have read.
His books were greater than he was. His Middle Passage is still my favourite book on Trinidad. I once asked him if he took notes when he travelled, and he indicated that he did not. I remained among the unbelievers on that one. Though he did not live amongst us, he was certainly one of us.
My word to describe him was "choleric". He enriched our understanding of ourselves as a people and other peoples as well, be they Hindu, Muslim, British, Christian, African, Ugandan. Every ethnic group was put to the intellectual sword. He went up in my estimation when he allowed Patrick French to strip him naked and show ultimately that the Emperor had no clothes, and how spectacularly "flawed" he was.
Like Naipaul, CLR James was another QRC (Queen's Royal College) boy who did not live among us but whose influence was always keenly felt, particularly in intellectual circles. He influenced Eric Williams, both in politics and in scholarship, and many people of colour and ideological persuasion drank from his wisdom.
James must be thanked for his masterpiece, Beyond the Boundary, a volume which says as much of us as a people as it does for cricket as a sport. His Black Jacobins was also a tour de force.
HO Wooding is another QRC boy who makes the cut with ease.
He was a polymath who excelled at almost everything he touched.
I wrote his biography and got to know him between sleep and wake.
Most know him as the country's first chief justice, the man who perhaps did most to define some of the more durable traditions of that office. The masonic community also values his contribution to the craft as does the business community.
Many know him as the "Black Man in the White Boardroom" when being black and in the board room was an oxymoron.
He also helped to break the colour bar in the airline industry when he rostered Pearl Marshall Baird, who became the first black person to be employed as a stewardess on a BWIA flight to New York, USA.
Wooding was, of course, a brilliant scholar.
Some say he was brighter than Williams. Like Williams, he graduated at the top of his class at Middle Temple.
Wooding's influence extends to the University of the West Indies, of which he was once chancellor.
He was also an avid churchman and never missed going to church if one were in the vicinity.
It is said that he "died like a man". Unlike Learie Constantine, he turned down an invitation to be elevated to the House of Lords. After 1970, he could not accept such an invitation.
Ray (ANR) Robinson's claim to inclusion rests on his role which he played in slaying the mighty PNM (People's National Movement) when everyone feared it would live forever.
Robinson was also the person whom history chose to bear some of the heavy burdens that are involved with nation-building.
He carried the burden of political crucifixion when Bakr and his men took over the country in 1990, and he ordered the army to attack the Jamaat to attack with full force.
He ascended the presidency in 2002 and used that office to allow the PNM to regain power.
The Indian community blanched when he hinted that they lacked civic and spiritual values and that Panday was not fit for political office. He also restarted the task of redefining Tobago as a unit that was different from Trinidad.
Tobago was advised that it was not a ward of Trinidad but a ward of Trinidad and Tobago.
George Weekes's role in the trade union movement went beyond the normal. He played a critical role in radicalising opinion on "Black Power" and also in pushing hard to get Williams to nationalise British Petroleum.
Makandal Daaga's inclusion needs no explanation.
His role was to popularise the notion that power should reside in the people generally and black people in particular. The fact that he recently joined forces with the People's Partnership Government does not in any significant way detract from his status as one of the most influential persons on our ideological landscape.
He was not the only advocate. He was, however, the best known.
Other important persons in the gallery were Ellis Clarke, Ray Dieffenthaler, Ralph Gibson, Sidney Knox, Tommy Gatcliffe, Naz Ahamad, Gerald Wight, Emile Elias and Ken Gordon. These men are included because of the roles they played in building the private sector and in creating alternatives to the languorous public sector.
Elias's role was not limited to construction. His other roles included family planning and public advocacy.
He made the JCC (Joint Consultative Council) into a force to be reckoned with, both in terms of business and procurement
He almost single-handedly brought down the Manning regime.
Time does not allow us to do more than list a few others who deserve mention—Diana Mahabir-Wyatt (personnel management), Meiling (fashion), Pat Bishop (culture), Bertie Marshall (pan improvement) and Dod- dridge Alleyne (permanent secretary in the Prime Minister's office). On the instructions of Williams, Dodd literally "bought" the Bank of London and Montreal (BOLAM), which became NCB (National Commercial Bank), as well as Shell Oil Company.
Also to be added are Kamaluddin Mohammed and one of the PNM's founding members, former chief justice Michael de La Bastide, Karl Hudson-Phillips, Leroy Clarke, Gerry Pantin of Servol, Jack Warner (football executive) and the St Augustine Research Associates (SARA), who periodically reads the nation's political pulse and publishes its findings in one of its psephological exercises.
• To be concluded